It’s winter, and in a lot of places that means really, really lousy weather. Football handicappers need to be fully aware of the weather and the impact it can have on the outcome of NFL games. Cold weather and snow cause sports bettors to act in some strange ways, and some of those ways don’t make a lot of sense. Here are seven things for sports bettors to keep in mind when considering the weather in your NFL handicapping:
Spot the domes – This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t. Last week I read an article talking quite eloquently about the football team’s playing, how their playing styles responded to bad weather, how they have done in the bad weather in the past, and so on. Impressive stuff. The only problem? The game was being played in Detroit, and snow and wind are rarely a big worry in domes.
When in doubt, wait – There is nothing more frustrating than making a bet based on some assumptions, but then finding that those assumptions aren’t relevant by game time. Weather can be a nightmare in this regard because weather forecasting is far from a precise science. The Sunday afternoon snow that seems certain on Wednesday afternoon may have disappeared from possibility by Saturday morning. If weather is going to factor into your decision on a football game in a big way, then, the sensible thing for you to do is to wait as close to game time as you can before making a decision on your sports bet so you can be reasonably sure of what the weather will actually be like.
How comfortable with the weather are the teams? – This is where you have to ask the basic questions about how well a football team is likely to respond to the weather. Dome teams likely won’t like the weather as well as a team like Green Bay might. The Bucs likely won’t like the cold as much as the Bears. Geography and familiarity have a huge impact. You have to be cautious here, though – these impacts are obvious, so the public will see them and compensate for them. Anything that is obvious to the sports betting public will be factored into lines by the oddsmakers, so it can be dangerously easy to overcompensate for such a factor and bet in situations with little value.
Key player history – Regardless of where a NFL team plays sometimes they have players in important positions who just don’t thrive in cold weather. Back in his day Doug Flutie had trouble in the bitter cold despite his time in cold places like Calgary and Buffalo. Now Mark Sanchez stands out as a guy who isn’t at his best when it is bitter. If a team relies on a particular player in order to do well and that player will be particularly affected by the weather then it stands to reason that the team might not be as good as they will be perceived to be.
Don’t jump on the under – The betting public tends to see bad weather and assume the game will go under. The sportsbooks know that and set the totals accordingly. The problem is, though, that bad weather doesn’t always impact offenses and point spreads. In fact, slick conditions can be a big benefit for offenses – it’s easier for a player who knows where he is going to stay on his feet than it is for one who has to read and respond quickly. Cold weather doesn’t typically affect footing as much as people think, either, because cold weather fields are built with heating coils under the field to keep things reasonably soft. Teams also often won’t be affected in their passing game by light snow to nearly the extent that the public thinks they will.
Wind is an under-appreciated factor – People worry too much about snow and rain, and don’t worry enough about wind. Wind is really the biggest possible weather factor in football. Strong wind will have a huge impact on a team’s ability to pass, so it gives strong running teams a big edge. It also can have a big impact on the kicking game. A lot of weather forecasts that sports bettors look at don’t factor in the wind, but if I was going to look at just one weather issue it would be the wind.
Transitioning weather is more significant than established weather – Change is hard. That’s true at life, and it is true with the weather in the NFL. If a football team has had time to practice in the weather and get used to it then, pretty much regardless of what it is, the impact can be minimized. NFL trainers can make sure that players have the right shoes and the right clothing, players can learn what they can and can’t do, and coaches can game plan for the realities. In cases like that the public will almost always overcompensate. Weather can have a much larger factor, though, when it changes just before the game or during it. If a snow storm blows in during a game, or if the rain starts coming down hard, or if the wind really picks up, then teams have to compensate on the fly, and that isn’t always smooth.